American society has had certain cultural and political forces which have proliferated over the past few decades-described as the return to traditional Christian values. Television commercials promoting family values followed by endorsements from specific denominations are on the rise. As the public has become more aware of a shift in the cultural and political climate through the mass media, Margaret Atwood, in writing The Handmaid’s Tale, could have been similarly affected by this growing awareness of the public consciousness. This may have led Atwood to write of a bleak future for the country where a new regime is established and one religion becomes so powerful as to take over the nation by a military coup, subjugating women into archaic stereotypical female roles.
Two of these forces, as reflected in the novel, are misogyny among Christian men and the rising political power of the Religious Right. Both are insidious because the real agendas are often couched in the authority of the Bible, and both serve to oppress women and their rights. Christian misogyny, like the brainwashing at the Red Center and ceremonial scripture readings preceding sexual intercourse in The Handmaid’s Tale, keeps its foothold on the necks of women by distorting the meaning of Biblical scripture. In the case of the Religious Right, its tenets would abridge not only some of women’s rights, such as the availability of abortion, but would also infringe on religious freedom for all Americans. In its forays into the political system, more recently through its Christian Coalition, the Religious Right, like Christian misogynists, interprets scripture to support its movement to meet…
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…at Robertson’s Agenda for America: a Marriage of Religion and Politics.” USA Today. July 1996. 30.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1985.
Boston, Robert. Why the Religious Right is Wrong: About Separation of Church and State. Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1993.
Doerr, Edd. “Pat Robertson’s Agenda for America: a Marriage of Religion and Politics.” USA Today. July, 1996. 30
Gushee, Steve. “TV Series Chronicles Rise of Religious Right.” The Palm Beach Post. September 27, 1996. 1F.
Rinck, Margaret. Christian Men Who Hate Women. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Pyranee Books, 1990.
Trotter, F. Thomas. “Bible Frequently Quoted Carelessly for Political Points.” The Nashville Banner. September 28, 1995. A7.
Wallsten, Peter. “Church Meets State.” St. Petersburg Times. February 16, 1997. 1D.
Jack’s Transformation in Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack and the Beanstalk – Jack’s Transformation
“Jack and the Beanstalk” is an example of a Buildungsroman. As the tale progresses, Jack evolves from an immature person into a mature, self-assertive person. While minor differences exist in various versions of the tale, such as those between Joseph Jacobs’ and Horace Elisha Scudder’s versions, the tale can always be read as Jack’s quest for maturity. Some critics, however, analyze the tale as one in which Jack remains spoiled and immature. While they make points which support their claims, careful analysis of the tale will reveal that Jack’s struggle to grow up and to achieve maturity is representative of the difficult process of adolescent (especially male) maturation and the process of adolescent socialization.
Some critics, as previously stated, maintain that Jack does not mature or learn any lesson during the tale. For example, Nell B. Byers writes that Jack is “a fellow who makes what would not be thought of as a prudent investment; who is not above trickery in outwitting the giant’s wife; who steals the giant’s treasures; and who, having killed the giant, lives with his mother happily ever afterward in affluence” (26). Byers’ statement would lead one to believe that Jack does not change very much. Granted, a literal reading of most versions of the tale supports Byers’ statements. Jack appears to be an immature, spoiled brat, or worse. Yet, a deeper reading is required to fully understand the tale’s meaning.
Another critic, William Mayne, comments on Jack’s lack of maturity and morality in Joseph Jacobs’ version of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” In this version, Mayne claims that Jack “went up to another land where he had no right to be, and set o…
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Bettelheim, Bruno. The Use of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.
Byers, Nell B. “Porridge For Goldilocks.” Education Digest March 1949: 25-26.
Jacobs, Joseph. English Fairy Tales. 3rd ed. New York: Schocken Books, 1967.
Mayne, William ed. Book of Giants. New York: E.P. Dutton